Archives for category: Process

From Chinese Koans to the Hindu notions of reincarnation and from Taoism to Zen Buddhism; I have been greatly inspired by Eastern thought. That is not to say that I have a deep understanding of these beliefs nor am I, strictly speaking, a practitioner. Suffice to say that the understandings that I have, had a deep influence on my views of the world and a strong influence my art.

I had a small raku tile in my studio for years. Its strong association to the East limited how I thought I should use it. Because of the pandemic, with antique fairs cancelled and shops closed, I had to rethink the ingredients that I have in my workshop and push to use them in new directions.

Letting this tile “guide” me, I created Ichi (Japanese for “one” or “first”). Rather than using the dark stains that I usually use in my work, I let the lighter wood and signs of wear guide me. The dovetail corner of a box, flattened out, had such a beautiful texture. This Asian aesthetic is a very different direction for me. When I have tried to do this before, a kind of minimalism, I found it to be as difficult as building some of my most complex Foundlings.

I am not sure I will be able to continue in this direction but when a piece whispers to me, all I can do is follow it.

Ichi Working IMG_9239

10 July 2020.  There are two aspects of creating these Foundlings that seem so different at first glance and yet are actually part of the same creative process.

The first is vision. To have a vision that suggests a direction is the first hurdle. The process is never a direct one and is largely trial and error. I have talked about this before as it is a kind of “sketch”. Instead of erasing I simply move things around until they seem “right”.

The other aspect is the engineering. Not having a lot of experience with: using power tools; knowing what to do to construct these or; for that matter, knowing what I was able to do, was a real learning exercise. Working with such different materials and trying to figure out not just how ingredients fit together but to build the pieces so they would stay together, was entirely a new thought process for me.

As different as these aspects seem, they both entail a kind of understanding: of the aesthetics, of the materials, how things can fit together and of the direction needed to actually build these. Both involve looking deeply past what is, to what could be. The aesthetics and engineering has been a very gratifying… and sometime frustrating process.

HoneySuckle_LoRes_IMG_9482

The pandemic has been going on for over 100 days. Self isolating and social distancing has made the days much the same. Without going out to dinner, seeing friends or going to the movies, every day is eerily similar. This has imposed on me a kind of solitude and it has inspired me to create more works. I have been very prolific.

When I am creating I am lost in the moment. I am not thinking of the pandemic, about the loss I have suffered, or how long this will last. When I am creating the “sameness” and sadness are gone.

Antique fairs are cancelled, visits to garage sales or antiques stores have stopped, and my stock of ingredients has been dwindling. This does force me to reconsider the material I have and it forces me to reconsider how I create a new Foundling. Perhaps I need to reconsider what all of this solitude means as well.

MadHatter_Backround_LowRes

Reliquary IV 72dpi_IMG_9362Sometimes the decommissioning is about adding to a Foundling or perhaps embedding it in a larger work. This  new direction can easily breathe new life into a piece.  At other times, disassembling affords me the ability to  use ingredients that might be better used in a new way.

In this Foundling, the box, bone and brass plate with the round holes have been in an incomplete state in my studio for years. The carriage step, the pendulum-like piece hanging down, has been waiting even longer to be used. Only when disassembled and reassembled with the new ingredients, did this piece literally and figuratively, finally come together.

In this process certrain things are becoming clear: I am getting much more skilled at my craft, both with the use of tools and how I “engineer” these Foundlings; I have a much higher level of satisfaction with these new pieces; and I seem to have a clearer idea on how to create a work of art in the first place… but the path is still not a direct one.

 

Traditionally appreciated by Chinese philosophers, scholar’s rocks, lower right, can be any size or any color. These abstract forms were meant to represent nature in miniature on which the scholar could meditate on the beauty and mystery of nature.

This Foundling, Last Stand II, features an elegant piece of driftwood, that to me, conveys the same sense of abstract beauty that rocks represent. Framed within a circle and a square, a form I return to again and again, only heightens the natural elegance of the wood worn down by the power of the sea.

A work in progress laying on my workbench, waiting to be engineered, stained and finally assembled, “Last Stand II” still displays such mystery, even lying down.

ScholarRock_Foundling

Judy front_Mailchimp72dpiRGB.jpg

A dear friend died suddenly a few months ago. She was bright, kind, and a loving wife & mother. She had a love of nature, of books and always went out of her way to help others. Her kindness is what stood out most to me.

With such a loss, there is a kind of helplessness that sets in. Death is a part of life and yet, it is so easy to turn a blind eye to it, until we are confronted with it. There is little to do but move through the grieving process.

For me creating is also a healing process. It does’t remove the grief, nor is this merely a distraction but it does allow me to meditate on the loss as I create something new. This Foundling is the third “memorial piece” I have created.

In 1928 Charles Demuth painted “I saw the Figure 5 in Gold”. I have seen this image in every survey of art class I have ever taken and in person. Demuth was making an abstract portrait of William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Great Figure” which evokes imagery of a fire engine.

The painting with its beautiful form and use of type frequently inspires me. I have always loved all forms of type, especially numbers. To me, letters evoke classic monograms and abbreviations which, by their nature are too literal. Numbers on the other hand are abstract… in a literal way. Is the ”three“ about the three bells or is the three merely an element to break up the form? The bells remind me of a fire alarm as well (three alarm fire?). Creativity is a curious thing.

Demuth_TheBells

Rusted Type IMG_8821I am back from my travels to Norway, Denmark and Sweden and return to a country I don’t recognize. The Covid-19 virus has locked down so much of the country, leaving the city strangely empty. Panic was not present in the countries I visited… at least not while I was there.

What was present and throughout much of the world is a history that we don’t have in the United States. Being only 240+ years old, something “old” in this country is over 25 years. To the rest of the world it can be a few hundred or a few thousand years old. It is also no surprise that the Scandinavian history is beautifuly fused with the new. This combination speaks to a history, sometimes known and sometimes to an unknown past, that is so central to my work as well. This combination speaks to me so deeply.

In this sign the old type is presented in a new way with a background of beautiful rusted patina. The delicate script so effortlessly dances over the serif font behind it. Is it old, is it new? It really just doesn’t matter. It’s beautiful and it inspires me.

It would seem that it’s all a process, fit two pieces together, figure out how to secure them. Take the next pieces, secure them. Keep going until the entire work is all secured. Take the whole thing apart, stain it and them put it together again. Once I am sure that the entire piece fits, take it apart yet again and glue the pieces as I put the final piece together.

ComingTogetherImage

It’s done, the creation was not nearly as direct a process as it could have been but I am pleased with the outcome. It did turn out to be more of an illustrative piece than an exercise in the beauty of a repeating form and yet, there is a repeating pattern of dots from the molding, to the metal grate, to the die holder, to the delicate row of chicken feathers.

In Memory II is about loss but it is less about any particular loss and more about loss in the abstract.

Although some people might find loss sad, in fact, loss is only a reminder of what you had—or still have. You can easily dwell on a loss or you can rejoice in the fact that you had the opportunity to have: met that person, acquired a possession, heard that song or had the good fortune to have been in good health. The choice is ours to make. Even more important, loss creates a space. It is only when there is space, is there room for something new.

As with all of my work, although contrasts or beauty are integral to my pieces, these Foundlings are more about the unexpected. It is my hope that this wakes us up to all we have and all we have to be grateful for.

In Memory II_front_72dpi_MailChimp_RGB